Gene's Blog: Passing the time until pigskins fly

CBS Sports Best in College Sports story


The summer calendar continues its march. NFL training camps open next week, and even some FBS football teams will assemble in the next 10 days. Division III football teams will start practices in less than 25 days.

As college athletics' brief off-season winds down, numerous media, internet and social media sites are trying to fill the void and grab your attention until competition starts in six weeks.

National polls, lists and rankings of any kind -- however smart or silly -- always get folks talking.

The Learfield Directors' Cup has become accepted as the most recognized all-sports competition in college athletics.

Created in 1993-94 for Division I institutions  -- and first compiled in 1995-96 for Divisions II and III plus NAIA -- the Directors Cup gives points based on a school's best NCAA team finishes (best 10 men's plus best 10 women's).

As a measure of a university's overall athletics department, it puts women's sports on an equal footing as the men, and values all sports equally.

There's no perfect system for comparing college athletics programs. Some dislike the fact that the Directors Cup scores an NCAA team championship in rowing equally as one in football. Others quibble with the actual scoring system and argue that an NCAA team championship should come with a bonus, worth say 150 points instead of only 100 since a runner-up or third-place finisher can score between 80-90 points.

Some like the fact that "blue blood" men's basketball programs like Duke, Kentucky and Kansas or household football names like Clemson, Auburn, Notre Dame or BYU don't rule the Directors Cup like a Stanford or Florida do. The latter schools find their way into the top 5-10 most years thanks to Olympic sports successes (swimming and diving, track and field, golf, softball or baseball).

Move over Learfield. At the Division I level, the folks at CBS created their own all-sport ranking a few years ago and included a few major tweaks. Instead of 20-plus sports being eligible for points, schools in the CBS formula can only score in five. Schools must use football and men's and women's basketball finishes, and then take two "wild card" sports with their best national showing among these eight "spectator" sports: baseball, softball, volleyball, soccer, hockey, wrestling, gymnastics, lacrosse.

What makes CBS's formula even more radical is that it it gives major bonuses for the two biggest spectator sports -- football points are multiplied by 2.5, while men's basketball points are doubled.

Last school year, the Division I Learfield Directors' Cup was won by Stanford followed by Ohio State and Florida at Nos. 2-3. But the CBS all-sport scoring with its limits and adjustments awarded the No. 1 spot to Florida State, followed next by Florida and Southern Cal.

The Seminoles took 13th in the Directors Cup yet won the CBS scoring. Cup winner Stanford finished just eighth in the CBS totals.

At the top, women's basketball points pushed Florida State over its next closest pursuers, as Florida and Southern Cal missed the NCAA tournament in women's hoops.

If you're wondering, Minnesota finished 30th in both the Directors Cup and the CBS Sports scoring. Wisconsin was 17th in the Directors Cup but soared to fourth in the CBS Sports formula.

One year earlier in 2015-16, Stanford also was the Directors Cup winner, but Oklahoma landed atop the CBS Sports all-sports formula.

Internet comments are hardly scientific, but among 50-plus responses below the CBS story, there were far more critics than believers. Some readers accused CBS of rigging the numbers to help Southeastern Conference teams since the SEC is affiliated with the CBS TV network.

It doesn't look like CBS' formula will unseat the Learfield Directors Cup, which has gained in visibility and credibility over time. More institutions and media members are referencing the Learfield standings as a measure of a program's overall success.

Did You Know?

The CBS Sports formula is not used in Divisions II and III or NAIA. But if Division III national all-sport finishes were calculated with the CBS model, St. Thomas would have done very well in recent years.

For 2016-17, the D-III Directors Cup winner was Williams (Mass.) followed by Washington (Mo.) and Tufts (Mass.). But if you scored D-III using the CBS Sports formula, your top three would have been UW-Whitewater, UW-Oshkosh and St. Thomas. In the Directors Cup, the Warhawks were sixth, UW-La Crosse was 12th, and St. Thomas took 17th.

Plus, one year earlier in 2015-16 -- led by a men's basketball championship and a football runner-up finish and the subsequent multiplier effect -- the Tommies would have finished No. 1 among all Division III institutions.

Throughout this decade, its consistent women's hoops success, plus its five recent NCAA top-three finishes in football and men's basketball, would have put St. Thomas at or near the top with Whitewater if the CBS formula was used in D-III.

It's worth noting that the NESCAC Conference, which dominates the Directors Cup, doesn't send its football champ into the national playoffs, so the CBS all-sport formula would have trouble measuring those schools in certain years. 


Lance L. Update

Coach Glenn Caruso has built a 99-15 won-loss record in his first nine seasons guiding St. Thomas football. In September he will look to join an elite list of coaches to reach 100 victories in their first 120 games at one institution.

Former UW-Whitewater coach Lance Leipold recorded his 100th victory with the Warhawks in just his 106th game in season eight. He finished 109-6 in eight seasons with six Division III championships and one national runner-up finish.

Mount Union legend Larry Kehres retired as Raiders head coach in 2012 after a 28-10 NCAA championship-game win over the Tommies. His 332-24-3 record included 11 national crowns and five runner-up finishes. Kehres recorded his 100th victory in his 119th game at Mount Union in season No. 11.

Linfield's Joseph Smith reached 100 wins with the Wildcats last fall in his 119th game (11 seasons).

Leipold was part of two home games against the Tommies during his Whitewater tenure as a player, assistant and head coach. He was an assistant in 1990 when St. Thomas claimed a 24-23 NCAA playoff win in Whitewater; his 2013 team shut out UST 21-0 in the national semifinals en route to winning another NCAA crown.

Leipold left in 2015 to take the head coaching job at Division I Buffalo, and his first two teams have posted records of 5-7 and 2-10. Unlike his Whitewater teams, his first three Buffalo recruiting classes have had no Wisconsin signees and just one Illinois recruit, although Maple Grove, Minn., lineman Kayode Awoaike is a redshirt freshman this fall.

Leipold will bring Buffalo to TCF Bank Stadium Aug. 31 for a season-opening game against the Minnesota Gophers. Former Warhawk, U of M Gopher and Hamline assistant Jim Zebrowski joined Leipold's Buffalo coaching staff last winter.


One More List

Caruso has moved into the top 10 for NCAA active coaches' winning percentage (10-season minimum), with an 11-season record of 105-27 (.795). That includes his 6-12 mark in two seasons at Macalester in 2006 and 2007. The Scots won just two games in the three seasons prior to Caruso's arrival.

Among all NCAA coaches at their current schools -- with a minimum of five seasons -- Caruso's .868 winning clip at St. Thomas is second best among all NCAA football coaches behind Ohio State's Urban Meyer (.910, 61-6, five seasons) and just ahead of Alabama's Nick Saban (.862, 119-19, 11 seasons). 

After making just one national playoff appearance in a 25-year span from 1984-98, St. Thomas Football has participated in the NCAA playoffs in seven of the last eight seasons, with two trips to the championship game and four other trips to the quarterfinal round or beyond.


NCAA FB winningest coaches list


Gene's Blog is a sports column penned by UST sports information director Gene McGivern. Gene is starting his 24th season at St. Thomas and 30th overall in the MIAC. He blogs periodically on various topics regarding the Tommies, the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) and Division III sports.

If you have comments or questions, e-mail Gene at [email protected]